What’s the deal with Georgia?


Haley McCoy, Center Focus Editor

     Recent legislation proposed in a handful of Southern states has brought the topics of discrimination and identity to the forefront once again.

     The issues surround members of the LGBT community and religious freedoms. Some business owners have felt uncomfortable serving transgender and gay customers, from personal belief or from religious conviction. Some members of the church argue that they should not have to serve same-sex couples due to their religious beliefs. The government and other equal rights groups argue otherwise.

     First was Indiana. In 2015, the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed. Legally, the ordinance decreed that the people of Indiana had the full freedom to practice whichever religion they chose without interference. However, critics of the law claimed that it was just an excuse to discriminate against members of the LGBT community. Business owners were given a stronger case if they refused to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals based on faith. Religious organizations and small businesses are free to discriminate against LGBT individuals, and bathroom discrimination will also be allowed. On top of that, cities are not allowed to extend protections to members of this community

     More recently were the stories of Georgia and North Carolina. Congresses in the two states moved to pass rulings similar to Indiana’s law, but unique in their own ways, ordinances that allowed more freedom of discrimination, some pundits said.

     In Georgia, House Bill 757 was recently vetoed by Governor Nathan Deal under pressure from numerous corporations that threatened to take their business elsewhere should the bill pass. Among the companies were Disney, AMC Networks, Coca-Cola, the NFL and NBA. The NFL threatened to withdraw Atlanta for consideration for hosting future Super Bowls. Governor Deal vetoed the bill in order to save valuable revenue for the state and that “Georgia is a welcoming state,” open to accepting people of all identifications. The Georgia Congress is now calling for an override of the Governor’s veto, but a precedence has been set.

     North Carolina has state laws that protect against workplace discrimination, workplace accommodations, and minimum wage. According to the Charlotte Observer, these laws protect against discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, age, handicap or biological sex as designated on a person’s birth certificate. However, there are no protections for transgender individuals who have not had surgical procedures to match the gender they identify as. There are also no protections based on sexual orientation, despite the recent Supreme Court ruling. The law, known as HB2, overturns Charlotte city ordinances that offer protections for transgender and gay individuals. Members of the LGBT community can be fired based on gender identity and sexual orientation in North Carolina now.

     Similar to Georgia, North Carolina’s outside business interest is being negatively affected by HB2. The NBA All-Star game is supposed to be held in Charlotte in the coming years, but the NBA is considering moving the location of the game due to this new law. According to the Charlotte Observer, the NCAA is “monitoring the situation,” but currently plans on holding both the men’s and women’s championship tournaments in Charlotte in 2017 and 2018. ESPN, the cable networking company, is considering other location to hold an upcoming extreme sports competition.

     LGBT discrimination is not a new topic, but just a recurring one that was never really fixed. Though the June 26 Supreme Court decision declared same-sex marriage constitutional throughout the United States, 22 states currently have laws that protect against any and all discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Nine states protect workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity in state jobs, four protect state workers based on sexual orientation only, and two states protect state workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

     The United States has come a long way, yet in more than half of the states, an individual can be fired for being gay or transgender. It’s a hot topic now, and it will be until there is equality – true equality – across all 50 states.